Scripps Oceanography Open House for Retiring Research Ship Melville


Researchers and mariners onboard at Broadway Pier showcased 46 years of global ocean exploration and discovery as research vessel Melville was retired from national science service

The San Diego community enjoyed a free open house and tours aboard the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Research Vessel Melville at Broadway Pier on Feb. 21, 2015. This was the research ship’s farewell as it is retired from the U.S. Academic Research Fleet after 46 years of service to many generations of ocean scientists.

Scripps research ships are rarely accessible to the public due to the scope of ocean research, safety concerns, and intricate instruments onboard. This rare open house opportunity provided a glimpse into the rigors of research work at sea and the excitement of oceangoing exploration.   

Scripps Oceanography celebrated R/V Melville as a milestone in Scripps’s century-long history to fully explore the oceans for the benefit of society and the environment.


Built: 1969          Length: 279 feet        Owner: U.S. Navy
Crew: 23            Science Party: 38       Endurance: 60 days

R/V Melville was built in 1969 with funding by the U.S. Navy, and subsequently owned by the Office of Naval Research and operated by Scripps as part of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS).  Configured as a general-purpose oceanographic research vessel, Melville supported a wide range of scientific activities across every discipline of oceanography, and involving capabilities as diverse as deep-towing cameras, deploying massive moorings, precisely maneuvering remotely-operated vehicles thousands of meters below the ship, and launching (and recovering!) unmanned aircraft used to measure gravity and atmospheric physical properties. 

A Global Class vessel, Melville excelled at projecting our observational capabilities to the far corners of the planet, operating for extended periods of time far from port through all kinds of weather, with a full complement of  state-of-the-art sensing systems and instruments aboard.  Melville sailed more than 1.5 million miles from the Arctic Circle to the Southern Ocean, crossed the equator more than 90 times, mapped the deepest spot on the planet, recovered core and dredge samples from trenches greater than 8,000 meters deep, and made first-ever observations of deep ocean volcanic eruptions.  Much of what we know today about plate tectonics, marine biodiversity, ocean circulation, waves, climate and the multitude of ways the ocean impacts human society, has benefited from research conducted aboard Melville

Melville served much longer than the design expectation of a 30-year life, having undergone a service life extension in 1992 that extended the useful life of this ship to 46 years, and resulted in a more capable and efficient vessel.  In 2014 Melville reached the end of this extended period, and was retired from UNOLS service in September.

After such long and distinguished service, Melville deserved this fitting send-off.  On Feb. 21, 2015, more than 600 scientists, mariners, marine technicians, staff, friends and family came together one last time to tour the vessel as Scripps celebrated the wealth of understanding that Melville made possible.

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